I’m a firm believer that every person has a story. All you have to do is ask and most people will tell you their story. Humans of New York is an outstanding example of that. But I also believe that every place has stories to tell and that it’s the job of artists to find those stories. Every time I explore an old home site, my imagination wants to bring to life the people who used to be there. Who were they? Why did they leave?
I can stand inside of an abandoned school and hear the sounds of chalk on a board and the laughter of children. If I close my eyes I can smell the chalk. Standing inside of an old building in Hopkinsville that used to be a brothel, brought to mind imaginary tales of dingy bedrooms and the women who kept the town’s secrets.
Another place with stories to tell is the cemetery. While driving around the countryside to find photo opportunities, I often stop in cemeteries. You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat their dead. In fact, I almost always visit an old cemetery when traveling overseas or in the southern states. The dates on the head stones leave me wondering about children who died young, women widowed at an early age and old soldiers. But it’s not just the old graves that tell stories. Sometimes, the fresher graves have stories to tell, too, especially at the veterans’ cemeteries. Stories that stop you in your tracks when you stumble upon them shortly after Christmas.
Like the 31 year old soldier whose marker was covered in lipstick. Lip prints that accumulated over time.
Or the soldier whose stone held a cupcake and a card addressed to “Daddy” in the large printed scrawl of a young child.
The cupcake was in good shape, the container tinged with the frost of a chilly day.
How long before I stopped there had the child been there? Is Christmas without “Daddy” as painful as I think it is? And how many years will pass before this soldier’s story will sadly seem as common as those who have served decades before him?